BUFFALO STAMPEDE TO CLASSIC TITLE

Buffalo overcame San Francisco 85-81 to take the title at the Belfast Hall of Fame Basketball Classic.

As the first NCAA tournament in Europe concluded on Saturday in front of a 5,000 crowd at the SSE Arena, the final of the Goliath bracket turned into a second half slugfest, a tough physical scrap with baskets traded back and forth.

Buffalo, ranked 20th in the AP standings, had led 41-35 at half-time and they were pegged back by San Francisco who drew level with 10:52 left despite three-point struggles.

An 8-2 surge looked to have opened up just enough daylight in this titanic tussle but San Francisco fought on and 7-2 riposte was capped by a Jamaree Bouyea lay-up that brought his team with two inside the closing minute.

However Buffalo – paced by 22 points off the bench from forward Nick Perkins – were able to seal victory from the foul line.

And head coach Nate Oats said, “It was a great win for us against a quality team. San Francisco is probably the secondbest team in a really good league in the West Coast Conference, so for us to be able to get them on neutral floor like that and get a good quality win is huge for our programme.

Stephen F Austin defeated Milwaukee 66-51 in the Goliath bracket’s consolation game behind 15 points from guard Kevon Harris.

All of which was a fine advert for both college basketball and for Classic organisers, proof that a small seed of an idea can grown into fully-germinated event.

Plans for more of the same in the future. London maybe as a venue. A credit to Gareth Maguire, Marc Mulholland and the team behind the teams here in an event (more on it here) that was broadcast across the United States on cable TV in a prime advert for the host city.

Capped by a final that was just as good.

Oats added, “This crowd is by far the best crowd in an EMT we’ve been in. Getting all the [primary school] kids in on a Friday when the adults are in work is an unbelievable idea, I thought it was awesome.  Even better that we got to visit the schools and then they were at the games.

“The guys running this tournament are doing it at a really high level. I thought the crowd was great, the arena was awesome, the hospitality’s been great and the city is awesome. We can only do tournaments like this every four years, but I’d jump at coming back to Belfast in four years.”

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